What is Liquid Heroin?

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Liquid heroin is a term used for two different substances. While they are vastly different in composition and manufacture, both create a typical opioid-like high, and both are physically dangerous and highly addictive.

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The Different Types of Liquid Heroin

The term “liquid heroin” refers to two different but equally dangerous substances: black tar heroin mixed with water or a concoction made by combining cough syrup with soda, sometimes referred to as lean.

While these drugs are entirely different in their makeup, they both result in a risk for abuse, addiction, and harm to your body. Once you become dependent upon these substances, the best way to break free is through accredited programs like those offered by Guardian Recovery that provide an individual focus to your treatment.

Black Tar Heroin

Black tar heroin gets its name based on its dark, sticky, tar-like texture. This form of heroin principally comes from Mexico and Latin America. Because of its source, it is more widely available on the west coast of the United States and other border regions than other forms of the substance.

It is a less-refined product of the opium poppy and contains impurities, which accounts for its color and texture. Its lack of refinement makes users tend to think it is less potent and more is needed to get high. Both assumptions are incorrect and lead to overdosing. Its crude form also makes it less expensive, increasing its popularity.

Black tar heroin is known by many names, including Mexican mud and TAR. This dark-colored heroin tends to be much cheaper than white powder forms of the drug and often comes from lab sites located in Mexico. This can make street access easier for many users, who may find its availability more convenient than other opioid products such as morphine or Oxycontin. Black tar heroin has significantly increased in popularity over recent years due to heightened accessibility and its affordability potential due to its impure refinement process.

Slang names include:

  • Black.
  • Black Bitch.
  • Black Pearl.
  • Black Eagle.
  • Black Stuff.
  • Cement.
  • Diesel.
  • Dark.

Making Black Tar Heroin a Liquid

Making black tar heroin a liquid is not as simple as adding water. The tar must be heated and carefully stirred to mix evenly with the water. This can be tricky to do without making a mess, and getting the correct ratio of tar to water can be difficult. Too much tar and the mixture will be too thick to inject; too little tar and the drug won’t be as potent.

How is Black Tar Heroin Liquid Used?

Black tar heroin liquid is injected or absorbed through the nose from an eyedropper. This latter method makes it more appealing to teens who may not understand they are ingesting a highly-addictive opiate.

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Side Effects of Black Tar Heroin

Black tar heroin produces the same side effects as all types of heroin, beginning with an initial euphoria. Less pleasant symptoms follow, including:

  • Dry mouth.
  • Warm flushing of the skin.
  • A heavy feeling in the arms and legs.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Severe itching.
  • Clouded thinking.
  • Fluctuations between states of being unconscious and semiconscious, known as going on the “nod.”

Injecting black tar heroin can cause short-term and long-term consequences such as collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, and infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B & C) that can come from sharing needles with other users. Injecting black tar heroin can also increase a person’s risk of overdose or death due to impurities in the drug itself.

Users quickly become accustomed to the drug and experience intense cravings for it. Other withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety.
  • Restlessness.
  • Insomnia.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Excessive sweating and chills.

The safest way to withdraw from this substance is through medically-assisted heroin detox, where your symptoms will be identified and treated immediately.

Lean Heroin

Lean heroin, also commonly known as purple drank, is a mixture of cough syrup that contains codeine (an opioid) mixed with soda or hard candy to make it more palatable. This drug cocktail has become increasingly popular because its ingredients are easily obtained at pharmacies and grocery stores, and you can drink it like any beverage.

While it may appear harmless since it uses consumable ingredients like cough syrup and candy, this drug presents many dangers to those who use it. Lean can cause a wide range of complications, particularly affecting cardiovascular functions, worsening existing mental health conditions, dehydration, and even death in some cases.

Lean also goes by other street names, including:

  • Syrup.
  • Sizzurp.
  • Drank.
  • Barre.

Does Lean Have Heroin in It?

While the euphoric effect lean produces is similar to those caused by heroin, the substance is not an ingredient of the beverage. The confusion surrounding this topic may arise from the fact that some drinks sold as lean have indeed been found to contain substances such as heroin, a much more serious drug than codeine and one with more extreme side effects.

How Does Lean Use Affect the Body?

Lean is frequently abused with other substances like alcohol and different types of heroin. When used in this manner, you may be more susceptible to the harmful risks associated with these substances. Codeine, in particular, can cause drowsiness, confusion, and even coma, while alcohol and other types of heroin can increase your risk of fatal overdose or developing an addiction.

What Demographics Most Commonly Use Liquid Heroin or Lean?

Lean is frequently seen as a more accessible way of using these illicit substances than traditional forms of heroin due to its potency, ease of manufacture, and wide availability.

According to recent studies, liquid heroin and lean are most commonly used by teens as young as 12 and adults. Liquid heroin and lean appeal to these demographics because the way you use it does not conjure up images of stereotypical substance abusers – emaciated and shooting up drugs in squalid apartments. They can also be economical with a drop going for $5 to $10.

These substances are often obtained through urban-based drug dealers or dealers in lower-income areas who distribute large amounts of these drugs within small geographical regions. Users may acquire them via social media apps or the dark web.

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There are different types of liquid heroin, each with its own risks and side effects. The additional danger of these substances is their ease of use and wise-spread availability. If you’re struggling with using liquid black tar heroin or lean, it’s essential to seek help right away. Guardian Recovery can help. We provide comprehensive treatment, including medically-assisted detox, therapy, specialty programs, and reintegration support. Our caring and experienced administrative, medical, and clinical teams will guide you through every step of your recovery process from the first time you call. We provide a complimentary assessment and a free insurance benefits check and help coordinate local travel to our facility.

All you have to do is ask for help; we will take care of the rest. Contact us today.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://nida.nih.gov/sites/default/files/drugfacts_cough_cold_meds.pdf
  2. https://archives.drugabuse.gov/emerging-trends/syrup-purple-drank-sizzurp-lean
  3. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
  4. https://www.khou.com/article/news/friendswood-police-liquid-heroin-becoming-drug-of-choice-for-teens/285-342209710

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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